I am committed to the idea that research and teaching are mutually beneficial: my research is improved by the experience of teaching curious, thoughtful students, and vice versa. In all my courses, I strive to provide anthropology majors and non-majors alike with an anthropological toolkit that they can use both to think critically about assumptions that permeate everyday social life, and to understand the world from different points of view. I am constantly thinking about how to refresh my syllabi, rethink my teaching style, and challenge myself to make and keep my courses relevant for students in the changing world where we all live.
Below I share some reflections on my courses. For more formal course descriptions, see https://www.brynmawr.edu/anthropology/courses.
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (ANTH 102 at BMC)
I believe that if everyone took at least one anthropology course, the world would be a better place. For many students, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology is that one course; for others, this course is the beginning of an abiding interest in anthropology. For all these students, my goal is to make ANTH 102 a memorable experience, one they come away from with a newfound appreciation for the value of trying to see the world from different perspectives.
Africa in the World (ANTH 202 at BMC)
This course represents my effort to promote greater student understanding both of Africa’s diversity and its centrality to global events and processes. I begin the semester with discussions aimed at deconstructing typical representations of—and misconceptions about—Africa and continue with thematically focused sets of readings that explore issues including colonial legacies, “development,” gender and sexuality, and youth. Students write short analytical papers that require them to apply the arguments of course readings to current Africa-related events, thereby showing that they understand the course material and that they can use ideas from it to think about real-world issues. They also complete independent research projects on topics of their choice. Both these kinds of assignments require students to follow Africa-related news in ways most of them never have before, and to use the reading they do for the classroom to expand their ways of thinking about real-world events.
Anthropology of Food (ANTH 213 at BMC)
This course attracts a wide variety of students from different majors and cultural backgrounds. As a result, our class discussions are enriched with people sharing a range of personal experiences related to food and taste. Students complete a series of ethnographic assignments throughout the semester, and then analyze their ethnographic material through sets of midterm and final essays. Through this reading, discussion, fieldwork, and analysis, we collectively rethink our assumptions about what makes food “good.”
Culture, Power, and Politics (ANTH 294 at BMC)
In this course, I emphasize anthropological approaches to politics—a subject most students are not accustomed to thinking about in anthropological terms—through carefully curated course readings, focused discussion, and a final project for which students must design an (imaginary) ethnographic research project related to course themes. I also make reading the news a course requirement; once a week, students bring to class a news story they have encountered that they then analyze using one of the readings from the syllabus.
Anthropology of Globalization (ANTH 301 at BMC)
As I tell the students on the first day of class, I run this course like a graduate-level seminar: students take turns leading weekly discussions and they write critical responses to the weekly readings, which typically consist of a full book each week. We talk explicitly about how to practice skills—such as actively reading and interrogating texts and formulating critical questions—that will allow them not only to succeed in the course but will also stand them in good stead for graduate study or future jobs. I have been delighted to see students in this course collaborate in building intellectually invigorating discussions, and student evaluations have reflected a general appreciation of being assigned a greater level of responsibility in the course than they normally would have.
History of Anthropological Theory (ANTH 303 at BMC)
I see this course as an opportunity for majors and minors to come together and collaboratively work through the core questions that have animated the discipline over time. This involves critical thinking about how anthropological theory can be applied across subfields, and about how selecting a disciplinary “canon” is politically fraught. In the process, I ask students to work to understand primary anthropological texts in their historical contexts—including how the ideas in them connect from week to week.
Migrants, Refugees, and Life Across Borders (ANTH 339 at BMC)
Drawing from my years of research on migration issues, this course asks students to question widespread assumptions about what kind of human movement is considered acceptable and how borders get constructed. Readings are a mix of shorter articles and whole ethnographies, with themes including categories of movement, the role of the state, the gendering of migration, and family relatedness across borders. With course requirements including discussion, a midterm essay, and a final paper, students are responsible not only for a substantial amount of reading but also for applying the ideas from the texts to specific migration case studies.
Senior Conference (ANTH 398/399 at BMC)
This is the year-long course through which our majors complete their senior theses. My own undergraduate senior thesis process was an eye-opening, formative experience, and I feel privileged to become part of others’ learning through their thesis projects.